Saturday, February 24, 2024

Inside Wendy Williams' Family's Fight to Free Her from Her Guardianship: 'This System Is Broken' (Exclusive)

The former talk show host has been living under a legal guardianship since 2022 — and now her family is shedding light on the situation in this week's PEOPLE

By Brianne Tracy, Janine Rubenstein, and Danielle Bacher

Wendy Williams in 2019. Photo:Lars Niki/Getty

Wendy Williams
's family is working to regain control of her future.

Since May 2022, the former Wendy Williams Show host, 59, has been living under a legal guardianship that oversees both her finances and health. And for the past 10 months, she's been in an unknown facility to address cognitive issues.

Williams' family says her court-appointed legal guardian (whose identity remains private) is the only person who currently has unfettered access to her. They say she can call them, but they cannot call her themselves.

"How did she go from this aunt or sister that we love and is healthy one minute to this person who’s in and out of the hospital?” Williams' sister Wanda Finnie asks in this week's PEOPLE cover story. “How is that system better than the system the family could put in place? I don't know. I do know that this system is broken. I hope that at some point, Wendy becomes strong enough where she can speak on her own behalf."

PEOPLE's Wendy Williams cover story.

Williams — who has struggled with alcoholism and health issues including Graves’ disease (an autoimmune disorder that can cause bulging eyes), and lymphedema (a condition that causes swelling in her feet) — was appointed her legal guardian months after Wells Fargo froze her accounts in 2022. The decision to freeze the accounts was made after Williams' financial adviser at the time alleged that she was of “unsound mind,” according to Williams’ court filings. 

In January 2022, Wells Fargo successfully petitioned a New York court to have Williams placed under a temporary financial guardianship, reportedly because she was at risk of financial exploitation due to cognitive issues. A spokesperson for the financial services company has since shared with PEOPLE: "This matter was conducted under seal. Any claims against Wells Fargo have been dismissed."

Williams’ 23-year-old son Kevin Hunter Jr., whom she shares with ex-husband Kevin Hunter, came under scrutiny for his spending, but he strongly denies that he exploited her in the upcoming Lifetime documentary Where Is Wendy Williams? "I’ve never taken [money] without her consent," he says. (Kevin Jr. declined to comment for this story; Wanda says he is still financially supported by his mother.)

When the guardian was appointed to Williams in May 2022, her family says they were kept in the dark as to why the court made the decision. The court papers have also been sealed.

“All I know is that Wendy and her team walked into the courtroom one way, and they walked out, and the family is completely excluded,” says Wanda, 65.

Wendy Williams with her niece Alex in the Lifetime documentary Where Is Wendy Williams?.

Photo: Lifetime

A month after the guardian was appointed, Williams was caught on camera passed out at a Louis Vuitton store, drunk. She entered a wellness facility for two months starting in September 2022, but the next March, after she took a trip to L.A., her manager and jeweler Will Selby says in the documentary that she was “disheveled” and adamant about drinking.

"I think the film is a great illustration of what, in this one particular case, life looked like for someone that was under a guardianship," says Where Is Wendy Williams? executive producer Mark Ford. "Just because you're under a guardianship doesn't mean that you're getting 24/7 care, and I think just leaving someone in their apartment isn't care. When we got to know Wendy's family, it was clear to us this was a nice family, and the question remained in our minds: Why is the family not able to be a part of Wendy's life? Why is the family not able to serve as her guardian? I still don't fully have those answers."

While Ford says the documentary crew attempted to get the guardian to speak to them, they were "hung up on every single time" they reached out.

"So, we weren't able to really ask the questions that we would've loved to have asked, like, 'What's going on here on a daily basis? And why is there no food in Wendy's apartment, for example?' Simple things that we were able to see just because we were there so often," Ford says.

Williams' guardian has not responded to PEOPLE's request for comment. 

Wendy Williams being pushed in a wheelchair in September 2021.


Producers stopped filming the documentary in April 2023 after they found Williams in her apartment with her eyes rolled back into her head and worked with Selby to urge the guardian to get Williams help. Ford says, “The guardian did come around and was responsive to our pleas ... to get her into a safer place.”

Right now, the power over when Williams can leave the facility, if at all, remains in her guardian’s hands.

After high-profile cases like Britney Spears’, the legal guardian and conservator systems in the U.S. are being reexamined. A New York State Assembly bill was proposed in 2022 to expedite the hearing process when an appeal is filed in a guardianship. (Williams’ family is not currently contesting her case.)

Ford says filmmakers proceeded with the documentary to shed light on Williams’ situation: “We asked ourselves almost every day, ‘Is this helping Wendy or is this hurting her?’ And in the end we felt like it was helping her. This is about the guardianship system and how it can be improved.”

Investigative journalist Diane Dimond — who released a book about the guardianship system, We’re Here to Help: When Guardianship Goes Wrong, in September — says an estimated 2 million people are living under the court's control at present.

"A guardian can be a family member, it could be your best friend, it could be a perfectly trustworthy commoner, so to speak," Dimond says. "More and more, I have discovered, after investigating this for eight or nine years now, judges are overlooking family members, they're overlooking friends, and they're going immediately to these professional, for-profit appointees, and they're complete strangers to these wards of the court. So within that, the ward of the court loses all their civil rights. They have no more rights to decide anything about their personal life or their financial life."

Wendy Williams in March 2023.


Since guardianship proceedings happen in a court of equity and not in criminal or civil court, Dimond says "there's no due process."

"There's no trial, there's no right to present opposing witnesses," she says. "Usually, the judge will just take the petition, rubber stamp it, appoint the guardian or conservator and wash his or her hands of the case."

Under the guardianship, "you can no longer decide where you live, you can't spend your money, you can't vote, you can't marry, you can't decide what doctors you're going to see or what friends can come," says Dimond. "You have no rights. Somebody on death row has more rights than a person put under a guardianship. I'm not exaggerating because at least they can hire their own attorney, and they can make phone calls."

Once a person is placed under a guardianship, Dimond says it can be hard to get out of.

"I frankly worry that Wendy will never get out of guardianship because when a judge establishes a guardianship, it is most often for life," she says. "If we were a society that really cared about protecting at-risk people, vulnerable people, then tell me why there's so many people sleeping out on the streets in New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas, Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago? We only seem to care about putting people who've got some money in guardianships, and Wendy Williams has got money."

Still, Williams' family remains hopeful for the day they can reunite. "[Wendy's] desire, as I understand it, is to be in Florida with her family," Wanda says.

Wendy Williams with her son Kevin Jr. in Florida in 2021.

It’s hinted at in the documentary that Williams wants to get out of her current situation, as Wanda is shown instructing her over the phone to write down every time her calls go unanswered, presumably to her guardian.

During recent phone conversations with Williams, Wanda's daughter Alex, 33, says her aunt has been sounding "really great."

"I have not heard my aunt sound this good in years," she says. "To hear my aunt now in terms of just how clear she is, just how focused she is on the importance of family and the reality in terms of facing and understanding where she's at physically and mentally and emotionally, it is like a 180. I'm always just reminding her when I'm on the phone with her that she has a world of people here that love you, are supporting you and want to see you back."

Full Article & Source:
Inside Wendy Williams' Family's Fight to Free Her from Her Guardianship: 'This System Is Broken' (Exclusive)

See Also:
Wendy Williams diagnosed with aphasia, frontotemporal dementia: What to know ahead of documentary release

Wendy Williams Seen for First Time in a Year in Devastating Lifetime Documentary Trailer

What's happening with Wendy Williams? From talk show no-show to 'incapacitated person'


SHOCK CLAIMS Wendy Williams’ bank calls her an ‘incapacitated person’ who is possible ‘victim of financial exploitation’ in lawsuit

Wendy Williams had to be told several times her show had been canceled, execs say

Wendy Williams’ Ex Sells House Amid Big Money Troubles

Wendy Williams under financial guardianship


ABC News contributor Brian Buckmire discusses Wendy Williams’ case under court-appointed financial guardianship after a judge deemed her incapacitated.

Wendy Williams under financial guardianship

Friday, February 23, 2024

Wendy Williams diagnosed with aphasia, frontotemporal dementia: What to know ahead of documentary release

by Suzy Byrne

Where is Wendy Williams? In treatment, her family says, but they don't know much more than that. (Calvin Gayle)

Wendy Williams has been diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). The television personality was diagnosed with both conditions last year “after undergoing a battery of medical tests,” according to a press release.

Aphasia is a medical condition that can affect someone's ability to speak as well as to write and understand language, both verbal and written, according to Mayo Clinic. FTD, a form of dementia that impacts more than 500,000 Americans each year, can affect behavior, personality, language and movement. (Actor Bruce Willis was also diagnosed with FTD in 2023 after his aphasia worsened.) Both conditions “have already presented significant hurdles in Wendy's life,” according to the statement.

The news comes ahead of the release of Where Is Wendy Williams?, the new Lifetime documentary that looks at the famed TV host’s disappearance from the spotlight amid personal, health and money woes. It’s also a question that some of her closest relatives can’t answer.

What is the new Wendy Williams doc about?

Williams, 59, didn’t host the final season of her eponymous talk show from August 2021 to June 2022. She kept postponing her return to the purple throne she commanded for 12 years and worried fans as she was snapped needing assistance coming and going from wellness centers. Williams’s finances were frozen by her former wealth manager at Wells Fargo, who claimed she was “incapacitated” and “of unsound mind,” resulting in the TV star being put under guardianship.

That’s where things were when a documentary film crew began filming Williams in August 2022. The purported goal was to capture her comeback as she attempted to start a podcast. However, Williams — who has an executive producer credit on the doc — was plagued by alcoholism in addition to preexisting health issues (Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder and lymphedema, which causes tissue swelling).

Filming halted in April 2023 when Williams was found in her apartment with her eyes rolled back into her head, producers told People magazine. Williams was put into a facility to treat cognitive issues, which her son, Kevin Hunter Jr., said in the film are connected to alcohol use.

In the trailer for the doc, Williams seems confused and becomes angry when asked if she drank a bottle of alcohol in a day. Her family members express concern over her cognitive abilities, as well as her inner circle and guardian.

Where is Williams?

While the doc reveals Williams went into inpatient treatment nearly a year ago, some of the participants — including her sister — have no idea where she is living today.

Wanda Finnie, Williams’s sister, and Alex Finnie, her niece, told People magazine that Williams is in a better place physically and mentally. Wanda had just spoken to her one day prior and reported: She’s doing “really great” and is “not the person that you see in this film.” Alex said Williams had done “a 180” to where she had been physically, mentally and emotionally.

Yet further into the article, Williams’s relatives reveal that they don’t know where she’s being treated. They don’t know what kind of treatments are taking place. They can’t contact her directly. They only hear from Williams if she calls.

Wendy Williams on the Walk of Fame in 2019. (Michael Tran/FilmMagic)

They blame the lack of communication on Williams’s guardian, whose identity is private. According to the family, that person is the only one with full access to Williams.

In the doc, Williams claims that the guardian stole money from her, but filmmakers said she didn’t provide evidence.

Nearly one year after she was put into treatment, “The people who love her cannot see her,” Wanda told the outlet. “I think the big [question] is: How the hell did we get here?”

How is Williams now?

According to Thursday's statement, receiving aphasia and FTD diagnoses has enabled Williams “to receive the medical care she requires.”

The decision to share this news was difficult and made after careful consideration, not only to advocate for understanding and compassion for Wendy, but to raise awareness about aphasia and frontotemporal dementia and support the thousands of others facing similar circumstances. Unfortunately, many individuals diagnosed with aphasia and frontotemporal dementia face stigma and misunderstanding, particularly when they begin to exhibit behavioral changes but have not yet received a diagnosis.

There is hope that with early detection and far more empathy, the stigma associated with dementia will be eliminated, and those affected will receive the understanding, support, and care they deserve and need.

Wendy is still able to do many things for herself. Most importantly she maintains her trademark sense of humor and is receiving the care she requires to make sure she is protected and that her needs are addressed. She is appreciative of the many kind thoughts and good wishes being sent her way.

Questions remain

Lifetime did not make an advance screener of the documentary available to Yahoo Entertainment by press time, but People had access to it. According to the outlet, the doc looks at Williams’s spiral in the final years of her onetime hit show.

In those final years, Williams passed out on the show, exhibited slurred speech, appeared disoriented and took (multiple) extended breaks. She said she was being treated for Graves’ disease, only to have tabloids out her for secretly moving into a sober house.

Things came to a head in April 2019 when she filed for divorce from her husband of nearly 21 years, Kevin Hunter Sr., as he welcomed a child with another woman. He was axed as executive producer on her show. Their son was arrested for allegedly getting into an altercation with “Big Kev.”

Williams’s brother Tommy told People that the end of her marriage put her into a “dark space.”

Multiple staffers told the outlet that Williams, who had previously battled cocaine addiction, “would be drunk on air” in the show’s final years. Co-executive producer Suzanne Bass said they saw her “struggling,” but “she pushed us away” when they tried to help.

As part of the broadcast, Lifetime will direct viewers to resources including SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) and NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness).

Taryn Ryder contributed to this report

Correction: The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer's disease, per the CDC. An earlier version of this story misstated that it was FTD.

Where Is Wendy Williams? airs Feb. 24 and Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. ET on Lifetime.

Full Article & Source:
Wendy Williams diagnosed with aphasia, frontotemporal dementia: What to know ahead of documentary release

See Also:
Wendy Williams Seen for First Time in a Year in Devastating Lifetime Documentary Trailer

What's happening with Wendy Williams? From talk show no-show to 'incapacitated person'


SHOCK CLAIMS Wendy Williams’ bank calls her an ‘incapacitated person’ who is possible ‘victim of financial exploitation’ in lawsuit

Wendy Williams had to be told several times her show had been canceled, execs say

Wendy Williams’ Ex Sells House Amid Big Money Troubles

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Disbarred Lackawanna County attorney charged with forgery, tampering records

WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE CO. (WOLF) — A disbarred Lackawanna County attorney is now facing charges of forgery and tampering with records.

James Conaboy is expected to be arraigned on Thursday in Luzerne County for two charges each of forgery and tampering records, accused of lying to clients and forging signatures.

Conaboy was initially disbarred in 2023 amid the investigation.

In 2015, Teresa Matheson had hip surgery that resulted in complications and multiple following surgeries. In 2017, Conaboy, at the time an attorney with Abrahamsen, Conaboy & Abrahamsen, filed a medical malpractice suit against Geisinger. In April 2021, Conaboy notified the Mathesons that they were awarded $700,000 in a settlement and would receive the money a short time later, according to police. Despite making calls to Conaboy on a weekly basis, they never received the money, police said.

In March 2022, Teresa Matheson had received a document from Conaboy started that she will receive an extra $100,000 as interest since she had still not received the money. Later that month, she received a court document from Conaboy allegedly signed by Lackawanna County Judge Therence Nealon stating that the money was to be sent from the Catastrophic Loss Benefits Continuation Fund of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Later that month, Matheson received another court document from Conaboy, again thought to be signed by Judge Nealon, stating that Teresa Matheson was to be delivered $700,000.

However, in April 2022, the Mathesons received a phone call from Conaboy telling them "everything was a hoax and the court documents were fake," police wrote in an affidavit.

In a June 2022 interview, Conaboy told police that the suit was terminated on July 7, 2020, "since the claim could not be supported by a medical professional." Conaboy denied taking any money or defrauding the Mathesons in any way, according to an affidavit.

In the interview, Conaboy was shown several printed emails supplied by the Mathesons reportedly from Conaboy. However, Conaboy said he did not send those emails and has not spoken to the Mathesons since the suit was terminated in July 2020.

Through investigation, authorities discovered that:

  • The Lackawanna County Clerk of Courts did not have the two-Judge Nealon documents
  • Judge Nealon never issued the two orders
  • Geisinger was never served with legal paperwork related to the lawsuit

In September 2022, the Office of the Attorney General took over the investigation, and agents began to question more victims.

In another medical malpractice case in 2022, Conaboy reached a $25,00 settlement with Mid Valley Outpatient Care for his client, James Moran. However, the case ended up moving forward and no settlement was reached with the doctor.

Conaboy had been leading Moran to believe the case then settled for $50,000, when in reality, the case settled for zero, according to police. Conaboy reportedly made several excuses as to why the money had not been sent to Moran.

Moran then saw in Feb. 2023 that Conaboy had been removed from the Abrahamsen, Conaboy & Abrahamsen website, and called the firm to ask about it. Conaboy's brother, Kevin Conaboy, said that he had a mental breakdown and told Moran that his case was over without a payout.

In July 2023, investigators met with Paul Grace, another victim, who had worked with the Department of Labor and Industry Bureau of Disability as a disability adjudicator.

Conaboy, who was a family friend of Grace, advised that Grace should file a lawsuit against the Department of Labor and Industry. In 2017, Conaboy led Grace to believe that he was entitled to $517,000 in a settlement but once again gave Grace various excuses as to why Grace hadn't received the money.

In one excuse, Conaboy sent Grace a forged document from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, falsely signed then-Inspector General Bruce Beemer seeking court action to have the money returned since it was taken from the wrong Commonwealth account.

In May 2023, Kevin Conaboy told Grace that everything James Conaboy told him was false and that the case ended up being dismissed in 2018.

Conaboy's arraignment is scheduled for Thursday in Luzerne County.

Full Article & Source:
Disbarred Lackawanna County attorney charged with forgery, tampering records

Enduring Powers of Attorney review aims to reduce financial elder abuse

By Eileen Wood

The Standing Council of Attorneys-General is looking into changes to financial Enduring Powers of Attorney. Picture Shutterstock

Seniors' advocacy groups are keenly awaiting the publishing of a report expected to recommend major changes to Australia's financial Enduring Powers of Attorney laws.

In September the Standing Council of Attorneys-General released a consultation paper covering a range of key improvement areas in financial EPOA laws in an effort to stamp out elder abuse resulting from inadvertent or intentional misuse of EPOAs. Submissions closed on November 29, 2023.

Powers of Attorney are formal legal arrangements allowing a person (the principal) to appoint another adult or legal persons such as Public Trustees or private trustees, to make certain decision on their behalf. EPOAs unlike general powers of attorney are designed to continue should the principal lose their decision making capacity.

Currently EPOA laws are complex and differ between states which can cause practical issues and costs and there is a strong move for greater consistency.

John (79) appointed his wife as an Enduring Powers of Attorney with the help of a solicitor.

A few months later, after his health had deteriorated and at a time when his decision-making capacity was in question, his daughter took him to a police station and, with a Sergeant serving as a witness, had him sign a new EPOA appointing her. This was later disputed by his wife.

After a family conflict Walid (77), revoked his EPOA while in hospital. His daughter retained a copy of the original EPOA and Walid worried that his daughter might use the old EPOA agreement to make decisions in relation to his property and finances.

These are just two examples of the difficulties surrounding EPOAs and were provided to The Senior by Community Legal Centres Australia.

The consultation paper said greater consistency would reduce elder abuse, improve familiarity and understanding of EPOAs, enabling national education resources and greater alignment of services and and greater oversights.

The paper presents detailed proposals on the execution of an EPOA, witnessing arrangements, acceptance of appointment by an attorney, revocation and automatic revocation,attorney eligibility, attorney duties and access to justice issues (jurisdiction, compensation and offences).

According to Elder Abuse Awareness Australia some ways in which a EPOA can be misused leading to elder abuse are:

  • Making decisions the attorney is not authorised to make
  • Not consulting the older person about decisions and drawing on any decision-making capacity they may still have
  • Making decisions that align with their own preferences and values rather than the older person's
  • Not following the older person's instructions
  • Not keeping accurate records of transactions
  • Not keeping the attorney's money separate from the older person's (for example, not paying separately for their shopping and the older person's when shopping for both at the same time)
  • Denying the older person their rights
  • Controlling who the older person spends time with.

The Association of Independent Retirees has called on government to legislate quickly to reduce financial elder abuse.

Action to reduce financial abuse using powers of Attorney should be a priority for government, said Committee member of the St George AIR Branch Neil Birdsall.

Neil Birdsall

"Recent reports of adult children abusing their powers and defrauding parents should be a reminder to government that action is needed now," Mr Birdsall said.

"The wheels of government seem to be turning too slowly on this matter and these cases are on the increase" said Mr Birdsall. "The Association of Independent Retirees is calling for action."

A joint submission to the consultation by the Older Persons Advocacy Network and Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia said any changes to EPOA should ensure the human rights of the older person, should be person centred and easy to use and understand, as well as being accessible in terms of format and language, and across rural, regional and remote areas or where internet connectivity can be problematic and should ensure informarted choice.

The wheels of government seem to be turning too slowly on this matter (financial Enduring Powers of Attorney) and these cases are on the increase.

- Neil Birdsall Association of Independent Retirees.

Read the consultation paper:

If you are experiencing elder abuse of any kind or believe someone you know is being abused contact: 1800 ELDERHelp (1800- 353-374) a free call phone number that automatically redirects callers seeking information and advice on elder abuse with the phone service in their state or territory.

If you are in immediate danger call triple zero (000)

Lifeline is a crisis support service for people who are feeling overwhelmed or having difficulty coping. You can call Lifeline on 13-11-14 (available 24/7).

Full Article & Source:
Enduring Powers of Attorney review aims to reduce financial elder abuse

Carquinez Village Presents: How to Fight Scammers and Keep Seniors Safe

by Suzanne Antone

Fraudsters are everywhere—including Solano County—and they are more clever than ever! The Carquinez Village Speaker Series will address this topic at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, February 15, 2024, at the Benicia Public Library, 150 East L St. in Benicia. Attendees will learn the signs that they might be the target of an attack, as well as simple tips to prevent and report fraud.

The presentation will be led by Miles Otterbeck, representing Solano County Older and Disabled Adult Services (ODAS). Otterbeck is a college intern from the California State University at Sacramento studying political science. His presentation will address elder financial exploitation and fraud.

Otterback will describe how citizens can use the Solano Senior Fraud Prevention Center, a one-stop shop for all the information Solano County seniors and their families need to prevent financial elder abuse, empower seniors to fight back, and stop scammers in their tracks. Individuals can learn more about ODAS and the Center, by visiting .

The program is free and open to the public. A question and answer session will follow the presentation.

The mission of the Carquinez Village is to help Benicia and Vallejo seniors to stay in their homes and to enrich their lives through connecting, supporting, and inspiring them.

Full Article & Source:
Carquinez Village Presents: How to Fight Scammers and Keep Seniors Safe

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

West Springfield man sues Baystate Health for ‘civil rights violations’ over wife’s ongoing hospitalization

By Namu Sampath 

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Charles Mokrzecki, 77, and his wife Frances, of West Springfield, have been married for over 60 years.

Last July, Frances tripped and fell at the couple’s home, fracturing her hip. In the months that followed, Charles Mokrzecki claims Baystate Health, Frances’ medical care provider, blocked his ability to visit his wife and “violated their civil rights.”

The claim is detailed in a lawsuit filed Jan. 22 in Hampden County Superior Court.

Mokrzecki also alleges the hospital did not confer with him about medical procedures performed on his wife, including a surgery, and that the hospital “initiated a guardianship/conservatorship action through its staff in probate court, despite Mokrzecki’s role as his wife’s healthcare proxy, the lawsuit said.

A spokesperson for Baystate Health said the hospital does not comment on pending litigation.

Mokrzecki’s attorney, William Pudlo of Longmeadow, said Friday his client is waiting to hear whether the court will grant an injunction in the case.

Mokrzecki claims Baystate Health now prevents him from visiting his wife, “alleging ‘safety’ as the basis of their actions,” the lawsuit said.

Mokrzecki is requesting the court order Baystate Health to allow him to schedule in-person visits to see his wife while she is at the hospital. He wants the hospital to provide him with updates on his wife’s condition and that he be told about any plans to move her to a nursing facility.

The complaint seeks jury trial.

Lawsuit’s claims

When Mokrzecki first took his wife to the hospital for the fractured hip, he said he informed emergency room staff that she was in the early stages of dementia. He asked for an x-ray of her injury.

Mokrzecki claims in his lawsuit the hospital did not take an x-ray or perform any further examinations on his wife for four hours, as his wife “became increasingly agitated.” So the couple left.

A few days after her fall, Mokrzecki said his wife was unable to walk, due to her injuries, and was taken by ambulance to Baystate Health again. She was kept there for over a month, until Aug. 16. She was then taken to a skilled nursing facility, Quaboag Rehabilitation, where, during a visit, Mokrzecki claims he was informed for the first time that his wife had fallen during her stay.

In September, Frances was returned to Baystate Health to be treated for pneumonia. At some point during that month, Mokrzecki claims he was informed that his wife had undergone a surgical procedure. The suit says he had not been “consulted or advised of the actions at Baystate Hospital, her transfer to Quaboag, or the surgery she underwent” despite being her healthcare proxy — the person in charge of her medical-related needs.

The following month, Mokrzecki claims Baystate Health started the process of gaining guardianship over his wife without his knowledge or approval.

Mokrzecki had been visiting his wife almost daily during her hospitalizations, he said in the lawsuit.

Mokrzecki claims he lacks access to a computer and for that reason did not participate in a court-ordered online Zoom meeting regarding the guardianship issue. The hospital was “allowed to move forward” on the guardianship, the lawsuit states.

Mokrzecki claims he did not receive a copy of court paperwork that would have allowed him to object to the guardianship.

Despite this, Mokrzecki continued to visit his wife until Christmas Eve, where he grew more concerned about her care, the lawsuit said.

“(Frances) was restrained in her bed with a strap across her midsection and restraints on her wrists,” the lawsuit said. “On several occasions, (Mokrzecki) found that his wife’s meals were left in her room in a place she could not access due to her restraints.”

As a result, Mokrzecki believed his wife’s health was declining.

On Dec. 24., Mokrzecki went to visit his wife, the lawsuit claims. “She was still restrained, and her food was across the room — cold — and no staff had attempted to feed her,” the complaint states.

That led to a verbal outburst by Mokrzecki, the lawsuit says.

Upon returning home, Mokrzecki said he was visited by the West Springfield police. Two days later, at his next hospital visit, Mokrzecki said Baystate Health served him with a no-trespass order, which he says he has not violated.

Mokrzecki claims that in ordering him to stay away from the hospital, Baystate Health “deprived him companionship and his ability to be with (his wife) in (a) time of emotional need and inflicted emotional distress.”

Full Article & Source:
West Springfield man sues Baystate Health for ‘civil rights violations’ over wife’s ongoing hospitalization

Michigan Supreme Court to Hear Oral Arguments on AG Nessel’s Appeal of Controversial 1999 and 2007 Consumer Protection Decisions

– On Wednesday, the Michigan Supreme Court (MSC) ordered that oral arguments be scheduled in Attorney General Dana Nessel’s appeal of an order preventing her department’s investigation of Eli Lilly and Company’s insulin pricing practices. Eli Lilly has used two past decisions of the MSC to assert the Michigan Consumer Protection Act (MCPA) is inapplicable to its sale of insulin, those being the decisions in Smith v. Globe Life Ins. Co. and Liss v. Lewiston-Richards, Inc. The Supreme Court has now agreed to hear arguments for reversing those decisions, which the Attorney General asserts are not supported by a plain reading of the law.   

The Smith and Liss decisions preclude state investigation of suspected illegal business practices when the target business sells products or services authorized for sale by a law administered by a state or federal agency, irrespective of allegations pertaining to how they conduct that business. This flawed and broad interpretation of a narrow exemption within the MCPA shields many corporations from any state scrutiny of even the most egregiously unfair alleged business conduct. 

Were the Michigan Supreme Court to reverse the decisions in Smith (1999) and Liss (2007), the Michigan Consumer Protection Act would once again be interpreted to apply as intended, as evident by the law's own title, and the State would regain significant authority to defend consumers from deception and price gouging. Because of the Smith and Liss decisions, the MCPA has been held to no longer apply to the kinds of transactions Michiganders engage in every day—like buying automobiles, building or repairing their homes, dealing with telecommunications providers, and buying any kind of medication. A reversal of these decisions would restore a robust state defense of Michigan consumers.  

“The Smith and Liss decisions were decided on a misapplication of the law, and today are weaponized by corporations evading scrutiny into how they treat consumers,” said Nessel. “The Michigan Consumer Protection Act was meant to empower the State to combat predatory business practices, and these rulings should not stand to impair the government’s defense of vulnerable customers or even patients. While our appeal acutely seeks an investigation into insulin pricing allegations, a reversal of the Smith and Liss decisions would have widespread ramifications for our ability to investigate, litigate, and enforce the MCPA all across the consumer marketplace, where oftentimes the State law is rendered toothless and the vulnerable customer defenseless. 

“We look forward to making our arguments before the Michigan Supreme Court and will continue our efforts with the Legislature to further bolster the Consumer Protection Act.” 

In January 2022, Attorney General Nessel launched an investigation into Eli Lilly, one of the nation’s three largest drug-manufacturing companies producing insulin. The action sought to use the MCPA to investigate various aspects of Lilly’s pricing practices related to life-saving medications used by diabetics. Nessel also filed a companion Complaint for Declaratory Judgment, asking the court to declare that the exemption in section 4 of the MCPA does not prohibit an investigation into Eli Lilly’s insulin pricing. But Eli Lilly used the Smith and Liss decisions to obtain an order stating that the MCPA does not apply to its insulin sales, thus halting the investigation. 

In July of 2022, Ingham Circuit Court Judge Wanda M. Stokes granted Eli Lilly’s motion for summary disposition, holding that the Smith and Liss decisions preclude application of the MCPA to Lilly’s sale of insulin medications because the general practice of selling insulin is authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

A claim of appeal was filed with the Court of Appeals (COA) along with a bypass application to the MSC. The MSC denied the bypass application but asked the COA to expedite the appeal. The COA upheld the lower court’s decision, leading to the Attorney General's filing with the MSC in August of 2023. 

The Attorney General’s appeal is not based on the merits of whether Eli Lilly has violated the MCPA, but rather on the Attorney General’s authority to investigate possible MCPA violations under the MCPA when Eli Lilly is generally authorized to sell insulin medications by the FDA but is bound by no FDA regulations regarding the pricing of those medications.

Michigan Supreme Court to Hear Oral Arguments on AG Nessel’s Appeal of Controversial 1999 and 2007 Consumer Protection Decisions

Monday, February 19, 2024

Assisted living’s real problem: Staffing and acuity, not lack of regulation

by Neville M. Bilimoria 

Dec. 17, The Washington Post published a special investigation highlighting dozens of assisted living resident deaths across the country due to wandering or elopements.

As a result, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) scheduled a hearing before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, which he chairs, to look into why those deaths were happening, with at least a handful occurring in Casey’s home state of Pennsylvania. This was the first hearing of its kind for the assisted living industry in almost 20 years.

Well, the Senate Special Committee on Aging held its hearing on Jan. 25, eliciting testimony from advocates, industry leaders and families. It didn’t go so well for the assisted living industry, pointing once again toward increased fervor over possible federal legislation for assisted living communities nationwide:

  • “Unfortunately, what I heard today makes clear that we have a long way to go when it comes to guaranteeing the level of care that older Americans in assisted living facilities deserve.” — Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA)
  • “This has gone on long enough without federal oversight.” — Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Those hearings were not too surprising, because the Post painted a very dire picture of assisted living today in its expose. The Post had documented 2,000 assisted living wandering incidents since 2018, with more than 100 of them fatal. But the Post article, and what occurred at the hearing, highlights the big question: Is federal regulation the answer? No, I posit to you.

We all know what federal regulation did to the nursing home industry and how it currently affects that industry through increased enforcement, driving up costs, and even today, leading to nursing home closures. In today’s environment, and with the assisted living industry post-COVID-19, the last thing folks need is federal regulation as senior living communities are struggling to get back to their pre-pandemic staffing levels, all while dealing with residents’ greater health needs and an aging population in their homes at the same time.  

But what was interesting about the Senate hearing were the seemingly ignored comments of industry leaders from the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living and Argentum, and particularly Julie Simpkins, a member of the NCAL Board, who made a good point during the hearing:

“When we talk about assisted living, it’s important to note that every state, every facility and every resident is different. …Efforts to standardize all assisted living communities would be both unworkable and irresponsible for resident care.”

I think Simpkins is right. What happened to those residents is truly tragic (also acknowledged by Simpkins), but the call for increased state regulatory oversight is not just a veiled attempt by AHCA/NCAL and the industry to avoid more regulation. Most assisted living companies are operating and providing a good quality of care. Punishing a majority of assisted living communities with greater federal regulation isn’t necessarily the answer. Why not try, as advocates suggested at the Senate hearing, to allow state regulators to continue regulation, and also crack down on the poor-performing providers.

Further, allowing greater state oversight makes real sense for those of us who have been in the nursing home/assisted living industry; after all, more regulation at the federal level is only going to muck things up further, perhaps adding to or, even worse, exacerbating, the real problem: staffing shortages. Increased federal regulation only makes it more costly for facilities to achieve compliance, and that money could be better spent on workforce programs to attract more and better assisted living workers.

We can’t just look at staffing statistics for assisted living and open positions to really encapsulate the full gravity of the staffing shortage problem. The other problem is the pool of caregivers that operators have to choose from and the need for better caregivers to insert themselves into that hiring pool. 

After all, if you fill your staffing positions with undedicated, uneducated or unqualified individuals, then you are not helping the situation. As Simpkins said, we need to address programs that will bring workers — good workers — back to assisted living environments. Simpkins commented that addressing caregiver shortages through workforce programs could make a difference.

In all, a fix to this elopement problem may not be as simple as federal regulation. Maybe the better intervention is to help improve staffing, allow states to further crack down on poor-performing assisted living communities, and see how that goes before instituting federal regulation. Otherwise, federal regulation could make the situation worse. 

Neville M. Bilimoria is a partner in the Chicago office of the Health Law Practice Group and member of the Post-Acute Care and Senior Services Subgroup at Duane Morris LLP.

The opinions expressed in each McKnight’s Senior Living guest column are those of the author and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Senior Living.

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Assisted living’s real problem: Staffing and acuity, not lack of regulation